Thursday, February 8, 2007

the post gets it straight on slow growth

Montgomery County needs to get its act together. Officials in Alexandria are actually struggling to make the Carlyle district a new, vibrant downtown for the city, while we have nothing short of success in Silver Spring and Bethesda. And our people have the gall to say "stop"? It's ridiculous.

I wasn't going to say anything about this Post article given how much I've already written on the no-growthers in Montgomery County, but I think it was a nice slap in the face for anyone who says moratoriums (moratoria?) are the answer. It lays out the facts in a even-handed manner: yes, we can stop building in areas where the schools are overcrowded, but if we just rest on our laurels and don't build more schools to alleviate the pressure, the Evil Developers will just take their business elsewhere (see Huntfield, West Virginia.) And, of course, our traffic will be just as bad.

Speaking of traffic: It looks like the Purple Line might have to wait even longer for funding, even after the lobby-fest in Annapolis last month. Transit boosters are cautiously optimistic about bringing light-rail to Montgomery and Prince George's counties, but Action Committee for Transit President Hans Riemer (hey, that name sounds familiar!) says transit boosters are "focusing on next year" to get something done.

TOMORROW: We'll look at one Bethesda resident who stands to lose a lot from the Purple Line.


Anonymous said...

You're being too harsh on the county council. The proposed moratorium had a full exception for development in downtown Silver Spring and Bethesda and almost anywhere else near a Metro station.

Let's wait and see what the council does about development rules. I'm hoping that they will sweep away some of the rules that force urban developments to look like ugly suburbs with excessive parking and dead spaces out front, at the same time as they discourage strip malls and tract housing.

Terry in Silver Spring said...

Redevelopment in places like Silver Spring (not to mention Hyattsville, Seat Pleasant, etc) is EXACTLY what we should be doing. Bring new life into previously developed areas and leave the existing green spaces alone.

It's staggering the way DC and Maryland have changed in my lifetime, and I'm not all THAT old. The next time you drive down New York Avenue into DC, take a look around the area around the Pepsi plant. That land was my godmother's family's farm (they sold it when she was young, well before my time obviously). Can you imagine that area as a farm?

PGCist said...

Terry, I'm 29 years old and grew in Oxon Hill & Friendly, MD. I can remember the little 2-3 acre farmettes along Old Palmer Rd. selling the their own produce on roadside stands. Mind you, this is within 3 miles of the DC line.

I knew kids at my high school who picked tobacco at farms in Croom & Upper Marlboro for extra cash during the summer.

Take a look at an aerial map nowadays and the green areas are disappearing almost overnight.

You're right on the money when it comes to redeveloping what we have now.

Anonymous said...

I had hoped that the "slow growth" supporters on the Council were hoping to slow down development of the County's rapidly disappearing open, green spaces, and not existing urban areas like Rockville or Bethesda.

In their heart of hearts, I suspect big developers don't really give a damn about preserving green space. After all, isn't that just space that they CAN'T make money on? Given the fact that, once a piece of ground is developed and built upon, it's gone for good, i.e., that piece of green, open space isn't likely to ever be recovered.

I feel it's really high time to err on the side of slow-growth, and more carefully consider the impact of sprawl on the quality of our lives, and the inability of our infrastructure to keep pace with the added demands. To that end, it makes perfect sense to concentrate development in those areas already serviced by Metro (or to expand Metro, which is LONG overdue) and existing transportation services, rather than hacking down another forest for a sprawling development miles from the nearest public transportation, and then forcing the people to get into their car on already-clogged secondary and arterial roadways.

Terry in Silver Spring said...


I'm a proud grad of FHS, myself. My folks live walking distance from Ebenezer.

Kids at Friendly planted tobacco for extra money when I was there, too (graduated in 1980).

The Kirby's sold their farm along Indian Head. Did you know that they originally got their land grant from the King of England. The King! Can you imagine? They were members of my family's parish, St. Ignatius, and Mrs Kirby used to give the best local history talks you could ever imagine. For carpetbaggers like my family, this was absolutely facinating. I hope that the new Grand Old Opry development turns Oxon Hill around (named after the area around Oxford, England, not the beast of burden). It'd be nice to see Oxon Hill and Silver Spring as sister cities in their success. You probably know this, but the harbor development area used to be called Gravel Bay because of the gravel mining in the area. No shock that they fancied up the name, is there?

I don't advocate an end to growth, just directing it to reinvigorating the old areas. It feels sometimes like we're locusts. We go into an area, use it up, and move on to the next spot, leaving a crumbling concrete hulk behind us.

PGCist said...

Sorry If I'm loading this MoCo blog with too much PG County history!

Terry, it's a small world.

Mrs. Kirby was my MD History teacher in 4th grade. Great lady. She must have been in her 90's when she taught us. She had Mike Miller & Steny Hoyer personally talk to our class about local history and civic pride!

The Kirby's were one of the last holdouts from "old" PG County. I remember watching the workmen bulldoze the two vacant farmhouses and market building on their property. Last time I drove down Indian Head Hwy, I noticed their land was still vacant, but a developer sign was advertising homes starting in the $400's.

My dad gradated from FHS in the mid 70's, but I actually went on to McNamara in Forestville (another area ripe for change).

thecourtyard said...

Montgomery County is already very good at steering development to Metro stations - every single Metro station in the County has development going on within a mile (if you're confused about Glenmont, don't forget the Indian Spring redevelopment.) What we aren't seeing, however, are housing geared towards families. Million-dollar condos are nice, but they aren't keeping families from moving to Clarksburg and beyond. A family could definitely live in an apartment if it's designed for them (hell, mine did.) I think requiring more three- and four-bedroom apartments or subsidized housing near Metro stations would go a long way.

As for P.G. County - we have to see massive development inside the Beltway for things to really change. There's an article on Planetizen about declining inner suburbs in Richmond which says that old suburban areas (like District Heights, etc.) have the social problems of cities but none of the charms (particularly the older houses) that make them attractive for reinvestment. It'll be harder to revitalize P.G. County, but as long as the will and the money are there, anything's possible.

In the meantime, Hyattsville-College Park, Oxon Hill and the Landover-Largo area will start to swing upscale really soon. I personally am looking forward to Prince George's first Hollister store, even though I will not shop there.

Terry in Silver Spring said...

My last PG post in this thread, I promise.

PGist, I still miss Mrs. Kirby. She was a smart and very classy woman. Steny was from Forestville and graduated from Suitland. Mom volunteered for his campaigns for years (also Marvin Mandel, Werner Fornos, etc). Long after the redistricting, Mom and I were taking a colleague of mine from the Philippines on a tour of the Capitol (pre 9/11 security, of course). Steny was giving some kind of tv interview with lights, multiple cameras, and so forth. He saw us across the way and left the reporters and came over to hug Mom even though she was just one of the numerous housewives who volunteer for him years before. My colleagues eyes nearly popped out of his head. Steny has a good memory for people.